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Statement: At Annual Meeting, Pepsi Urged to Come Clean About Water
By Kristin Urquiza, Think Outside the Bottle campaign director
BOSTON - May 4 - Good morning Ms. Nooyi, and thank you for the opportunity to speak here. My name is Kristin Urquiza. I am Corporate Accountability International’s Think Outside the Bottle campaign director.
Tens of thousands of individuals, as well as communities, public officials and organizations across the country have joined Think Outside the Bottle to build support for strong public water systems and to call on bottled water corporations to address the social and environmental impacts of bottled water.
Last year at this very meeting Mrs. Nooyi you proposed a deal between PepsiCo and this movement regarding the accessibility of quality reports of PepsiCo’s Aquafina bottled water. You extended the opportunity to visit any PepsiCo bottling facility in the country. In your own words I quote: “Come and see our plant and then tell me if we need to put out anything that says what our quality report is. If you feel, after you see our plant, that we have to put out a water quality report just to prove that we've gone through the seven-stage reverse osmosis process, we'll do that. That's the deal I have with you. Come and visit us.”
Yesterday on behalf of our members and allies my colleagues and I joined PepsiCo staff for a tour of a Cheverly, Maryland bottling plant where we were given a tour of its Aquafina bottling facility. This visit gave PepsiCo a chance to share information it believed was important for us to know about Aquafina. Similarly, it provided our organization with a chance to see the operation first-hand and clearly communicate why consumers are asking PepsiCo for this information, why it is important, and what steps Pepsi’s competitors have taken to address these concerns.
We appreciate the time spent by you and your staff to extend this opportunity to our organization. In the follow-up to our tour, we stand resolved in our request that Pepsi take steps to produce and make available water quality reports comparable to what public water systems provide to the communities they serve.
The reason we stand resolved is that no matter the sophistication of the processing or appearance of the plant, no process is completely fail-safe, and the public has a right to know what the outcome of all this treatment is, not just how it is treated. This is an opportunity for Pepsi to show leadership amongst its competitors.
Why? I think the Honorable Senator Frank Lautenberg from New Jersey puts it best: “Americans deserve to know what’s in their water. Bottled water has become so popular—and so much a part of our culture—the public has a right to know where it comes from and how it's treated.”
In 2007, Pepsi took initial steps to respond to public concerns by changing the label of its Aquafina brand to include “public water source.” This has provided consumers with more information about the bottled water they are buying. Given Aquafina’s position as a top-selling national brand, Pepsi’s actions have shaped the rest of the bottled water industry’s practices as well, setting the stage for Nestlé to add the specific location of source to the labels of its Pure Life brand, and increasing pressure on Coke to do the same. Your shareholders, the public and our members recognize this action as a positive step in addressing the concerns surrounding PepsiCo’s water practices.
Yet, there is still more that PepsiCo needs to do to address the full scope of concerns people have about bottled water. PepsiCo needs to make information about the water quality testing and results for its Aquafina brand fully available to the public, in a manner comparable to reports by public water systems. Your competitors, Nestle and Coke, have taken steps to address these concerns beyond what PepsiCo has done.
Ms. Nooyi, it is my hope that you will honor your end of the deal as we have honored ours. As you’ve said before when describing Performance with Purpose: “Don’t wait for someone to tell you to change, go and make it happen.” We hope PepsiCo will show leadership on this issue of public importance, instead of resorting to industry self-regulation measures that fall short of what is required for people to make informed choices about drinking water.
Ms. Nooyi, my question to you is this: will you put action to your words by making information about the water quality testing and results for PepsiCo’s Aquafina brand fully available to the public, in a manner comparable to reports by public water systems?